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Sustainable Cars Made from Natural, Recycled Materials

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Have you ever wondered how an electric vehicle works, or how car companies can use more environmentally friendly materials? Ford sustainability expert John Viera has spent his entire career working on everything from fuel efficiency improvements in cars to sustainability initiatives for manufacturing facilities, and is excited to talk shop with Sierra Club Green Home readers.

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68BVKHJLbMA&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Compostable Cars of the Future
Ford recently began incorporating natural, environmentally friendly materials into its car parts, including wheatstraw and soy products. Its scientists are also researching uses for coconut husks, carrots, and corn-based plastics. The company envisions making cars with 100% biodegradable interiors in the future.

Wheatstraw is a waste product of wheat. That means using it diverts waste from landfills, and does not require extra agricultural land. Manufacturers use wheatstraw to create fibers that go in the center consoles and bins, which makes these car components biodegradable and more environmentally friendly.

Since soy is grown in excess in the United States, Ford partnered with the United Soybean Board to use soy in every one of its vehicles. “Soy foam” is used in the headrests and seats of cars. This foam is made from petroleum, like conventional foam, but soy oil is used as a substitute for 4-11% of the petroleum. This reduces carbon emissions and the amount of petroleum extracted. Soy oil is also used to create the sealing rubber applied throughout the car, and researchers are looking into using dandelion for similar purposes. Although this is slightly more environmentally friendly than conventional foam, the natural ingredient is such a small part of the foam that it is not biodegradable or low-impact.

With coconut husks, the fibers and sugars are extracted from the husk for material use. This coconut material is currently being used in research for seat fiber materials, and for replacing petroleum in plastic production. One benefit of using coconut oil in the plastic is that it makes for a lighter car, which increases fuel efficiency.

Blue Jean and Plastic Bottle Carpets
Ford is also finding ways to use fewer virgin materials (those extracted from the earth) and more environmentally friendly, recycled materials in their cars.

For the Focus Electric, Ford teamed up with fabric supplier Sage Automotive Interiors and Unify Yarns to create car fabric from post-industrial waste. Sage sells their post industrial waste to Unify, who then makes it into yarn. This yarn is then sold back to Sage. Sage then uses this yarn to make interior car fabric, then sells the fabric to Ford to make the fabric in its cars.

Ford is also collecting bottles from conferences to use in the entire fleet of Focus Electric cars next year. Its goal for the “2 Million Bottles Campaign” is to collect millions of plastic bottles and create bottle carpeting and seat fabric. The company already incorporates up to three pairs of used denim jeans per car in the carpet mats of some models.

For related articles see:
A Taurus in Your Produce Aisle
The Mighty vs The Cute: Ford Fusion vs Ford Fiesta
This App Will Give You Butterflies … But Only if You’re Good
The Detroit Auto Show: Sure Looks Green to Me
Other Ford videos

© 2012 SCGH, LLC. 


6 Responses to “Sustainable Cars Made from Natural, Recycled Materials”

  1. rea Says:

    so….. how much is it?

  2. Sean Says:

    I’ll stand up and clap for the recycled bottle and other recycled man-made parts. However, I’m going to sit back down and glare at anyone who thinks wide scale diversion of more food products and plant parts is a serious solution to the problem of limited inputs for conveniences like seats in new cars.
    First, it is atrociously wrong to consider “Wheatstraw… a waste product of wheat.” Yes, it is often baled and taken off site. Growers that do have this capacity to move it off site are already selling it for other uses. Drive through south Georgia in late spring and you’ll see field after field of big hay bales wrapped in plastic for animal silage feed or livestock bedding. A small fraction burn the straw in the field to kill plant diseases and pests, as a way of controlling pesticide use and cost. Note, however that this practice is declining and various laws (2007, Idaho, and 1992, the UK) have been enacted against it. The remaining growers leave it in the field, the most sustainable practice option. It is not, however, thrown into “landfills.”
    You hear it over and over that crop leftovers are “waste.” That’s ridiculous because plants you need less fertilizer if it is biodegraded back out of the leaves and stems for the next season, and removing them lets rain wash more soil into rivers. I’ll let someone else think hard whether we have an “excess” of soy after 2 years of famine in Somalia and an Arab Spring blowing up a year ago in response to high bread prices.\

  3. Lonitra Says:

    It’s a relief to find someone who can explian things so well

  4. Susan Bahl Says:

    Hooray for Sean..Yes..wheatstraw is not thrown in landfills..Soy foam is also not
    as good as it sounds. Petroleum is used in the development of the soy..Nothing said of the fabric..what the vision is sutainable solutions..ie when you sit inside a new car your eyes shouldn’t burn from all the plastics! Seat covering should be wool.so no flame retardant needed or stain repellent. (I am a interior health/design consultant)
    if you have more questions contact be my email.

  5. Lynmarie Says:

    they stolen my car one month ago they came to buy the car and when i make the test drive they told me to stop to see the car from out side after they told me to se shtimoeng on the front of the car and this is it, he jump inside the car close the dors and go with the car and trash me for about 3- 4 meters an audi a6 le mans series. after 3 weeks the police caled me and told me the case is closed .. i dont know where to go because nowbody help me .

  6. dan donotno Says:

    i hope they are thinking about a way to deter mice and rodents from including this ‘soy based product into their diets? i read an article that this “eco-friendly” soy plastic was used by auto makers for wire insulator. the rodents chewed up the wire and caused an engine failure for an elderly couple. needless to say it can be a costly repair for wiring issues to begin with. even before rodents preferred the taste of ‘soy flavored licorice. id hate to think of what will happen when most of the interior is made with yummy soy plastic. rodents will have to then organize and hold a “gnaw off” to see the can leave the biggest poops in this ladies back seat.


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